It’s Maryland Terrapins football preview week here at talking10 and we’re nearing the end of the week. However, we still have plenty to cover.
One of the most important things to changing a program is getting “your” players in the fold. Maryland will have its second class under D.J. Durkin (and the first full class of his own) in the fold this summer and in to the fall.
But, for the 2017 season the biggest answers are likely to come from established players on this team. Today we look at the five most important players for the 2017 Terps season.
Caleb Henderson, QB
Much of what happens with the Terps offense this season is going to be predicated on what happens at quarterback. Conventional wisdom says incoming freshman Kasim Hill is going to be the favorite for the job, as no one seemed to grab the job the horns during spring camp.
However, I have a feeling the coaching staff is secretly hoping that Hill doesn’t have to play this upcoming season. That makes Henderson an impact player, because if it won’t be Hill winning the starting job, look for Henderson to be the favorite. The former four-start quarterback has the arm talent to be an impactful player for the next two years, but it seems to be mentally getting the job done that has held him back.
If he can improve over summer and prove to the coaching staff he can handle the job this fall, look for him to win the job. If not, look for Hill to be the winner and the offense take its lumps in the passing game as the new quarterback learns on the job.
Jermaine Carter, Jr., LB
There was no player on the Terps defense last season with as much hype surrounding his chances to be great than Carter. After all, new head coach D.J. Durkin is a masterful linebackers coach and great defensive coordinator before coming aboard at the helm of the Terps.
Carter lived up to parts of they hype, topping the 100-tackle mark (106 to be exact), but more is to be expected from a player with his talent level. He only had three more tackles than in 2015 and went from 14 tackles for loss to nine last year.
If the Terps are going to make strides on the defensive side of the ball, Carter has to be better than just a tackling machine. We’ll see a player who could be really helpful to him, fellow linebacker Shane Cockerille help take some of the pressure off. But, this is Carter’s last chance to really impress and he has to in order for this youthful defense to have a chance.
Adam Greene, K
One way for Maryland to start winning bigger is to start playing well on special teams. That has to start with place kicker Adam Greene becoming a much better player for this team in 2017. Simply put, 2016 was a disaster.
Greene was just 9 of 14 on field goals last season and that was the second worst mark in the conference for those who qualified. His team could barely count on him to be accurate and it led to him attempting just 1.1 field goals per game. Additionally, he was just 5 of 9 from 30 yards out and beyond last season…that’s not good news.
Some it comes from having to kick in bad scenarios and an offense that didn’t give him much of a chance. But, he also didn’t take the chances that were presented to him. There were even four games last season in which he didn’t even attempt a single field goal. He’s got to be better so his team has more confidence in him and points are being put on the board instead of being left on the table.
Jesse Aniebonam, DE
Perhaps no player left 2016 on a higher note than Aniebonam did. He finished the season with 19 of his 46 tackles, 5.5 of his 14 tackles for loss and 3.5 of his nine sacks on the season in the final six games of the year.
There’s a lot of potential for Aniebonam to be a really dangerous edge rusher on this team in 2017, but he also needs to be more stout against the run. However, there is also the first half of the season and an up-and-down year overall to deal with.
Few defensive players on the Terps have as much promise heading in to the season as Aniebonam does. Living up to the potential and production of the last six games of the season from last year certainly would be a big help to the Maryland cause in 2017.
Darnell Savage, FS
Some could consider this A.W. 2017 — After Likely. The long time star of Maryland’s secondary is gone and that leaves some big holes to fill in a secondary that needs to be productive for the defense to work. Even with Likely in the mix this secondary struggled last season, coming in ninth in passing defense and giving up 19 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions.
Likely to step in to the big leadership gap (see what I did there) will be junior free safety Darnell Savage. He put up some good numbers last season, ranking third on the team in tackles (59), but a lot of that was done as opposing running backs were loose in the secondary.
Savage ended the year with just 3.5 tackles for loss, one interception and one sack. A free safety should have much better numbers in a 3-4 system that is designed to make the members of the secondary in to ball-hawking , heat-seeking missiles. The tools are there for Savage to make a jump after his first year starting for the Terps, but he’ll be counted to make strides on and off the field for this group to be successful.